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Xbox One will soon support four more classic Halo titles

It's a good week for longtime Halo fans. After saying nothing about Halo at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Microsoft has announced that the Xbox One will soon support four more games from the classic franchise: Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo 4 and Halo: CE Anniversary.

In a company blog post Thursday, the firm said it will release information about timing soon and will show "Halo 3" and "Halo 3: ODST" on the Xbox One this week at the RTX Austin gaming conference. Microsoft will also release a 4K version of Halo 5 for the upcoming Xbox One X.

Gamers can already play some older Halo games on Xbox One through remastered editions released with the new console. But this announcement will make it possible for longtime fans to use their old discs to play. The company will also support multiplayer for these games between Xbox 360 and Xbox One, which is great news for players who are sticking with the older system - or whose friends are.

In the past, upgrading to a new system meant abandoning your old library. The rise of digital distribution, however, has made it easier for companies to make older games available even after a system switch.

The big three of gaming - Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo - have all amped up efforts to expand the number of older games that players can play on modern devices. Earlier this week, Sony announced that several PS4 games would come to its PlayStation Now cloud service, making it possible to play titles such as "Red Dead Redemption" on a PC. Nintendo will also include access to a library of classic games in its online services for the Switch console, which will debut sometime in 2018 for $20 per month.

None of these solutions are perfect. Microsoft's backward compatibility library is extensive, but nowhere near complete, for example. The same criticism can be leveled at Sony, and Nintendo has yet to reveal how many of its classic games will be available.

Still, for gamers who've had to bid their old libraries farewell with old consoles, or longed for more freedom on digital titles in general, these types of announcements are encouraging.

Microsoft faced particularly harsh criticism for its policies when it debuted the Xbox One along with strict limits on sharing and reselling the games. But the company, which reversed course after the backlash, seems to be coming around. On Twitter late Thursday, Microsoft executive Mike Ybarra even indicated that Microsoft is working on a way to let players give games to others as gifts. That idea has worked very well for the PC-game distribution platform Steam, but hasn't made its way to consoles just yet.